Wednesday, June 2, 2021

From cat in box to childhood poems to the history of tableware and made up words we go!

Random morning wanderings.

cat in box
different cat,
different box

It started with a cat. A cat in a box, as they often like to be. This box happened to be a clean, dry litter box, waiting to go back into the stash, to be used next time we clean boxes. We have a lot of cats, 9 to be exact, and find that having spare boxes ready to fill with litter and place as we collect the dirty ones works well. But I digress. This cat was not curled up in the box, asleep, but lying there, looking over the side, “like a commander in a tank” my SO said. Or like a captain in a boat, my mind added. Even though boats are usually not painted blue, the blue litter box on the different blue linoleum of the front hall evoked that image in my mind.

And with the idea of a cat in a boat, on the water came the first lines of a children's poem “The owl and the pussycat went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat.” My mind flashed to the seasonal d├ęcor animals that sit around the house: a frazzled black Halloween cat we call Fradie, the equally black bird from the same holiday a few years later, “Nevermore,” and others. Many critters,

Random owl
Do I have your attention?

but much as we both like them, not an owl in the bunch. I voiced that thought. “If we had an owl, we could put it in there with her and I could take a photo. It would be easy to Photoshop the “boat” to make it green.” “Do you know that poem?” I asked K.

In response, as he had come back into the computer room where I was relaxing, he pulled it up on screen and read it aloud. “The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Leer. It was not one I had ever memorized but as he read the familiar lines, things caught my attention now, as an adult, differently than when I was a child.
When they“went to be married” they first sailed away “for a year and a day” – by which time in some old traditions they would already be wed. And then I wondered about the “bong tree” and wonder if some folks censor this line if reading to their kids of the new millennium, who might well have heard of a bong that does not grow on a tree. Nothaphoebe umbelliflora, is a tree in the laurel family that is commonly called (English) the bong tree. It is also called the yang bong tree (Thai) and grows in southeast Asia.

And after being married the next day, there is the question of that runcible spoon with which they ate “mince and slices of quince.” Most sources consider this one of Lear's many made up words, with which I concur, as the only reference to the term I can find prior to the 1800s – Lear published that poem in 1871 as part of his book Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany, and Alphabets – is as it is applied to an antique spoon for sale online, dated to before 1800 by the current seller. Most entries associate the term with a modern tool known to those who frequent fast food establishments as the “spork.” I have long had a dislike for that allegedly multi-use piece of plastic "table ware" – to give it a term much more dignified that it is entitled, in my mind. But now, seeing them made from sterling, I might have to give the runcible spoon a nod.

Runcible Spoon - Fiddle Pattern
London 1839 by William Eaton
14.9cm long; 31g

And so went the random musings of a couple of old homesteaders after deciding the conditions outside were a bit too hot and humid for attacking the project of the day.

Now back to painting a custom hex and washing a pile of dishes – no runcibles involved.